Tag Archives: romance

Review of Neutral Space, by Rebecca Tran

I won a copy of Rebecca Tran‘s Neutral Space through Goodreads. This was especially exciting for me because she turns out to be a local author and I have been trying to read more books by authors who live in my region.

Description from Goodreads:
Lieutenant Jackson Peterson thought he knew who the enemy was. A bitter war with the Kelsairans made it abundantly clear. When Jackson saves a Kelsairan woman from a wrecked ship, the line is suddenly blurred. The enemy isn’t what the government said they were and he can no longer blindly follow orders. A shocking discovery leads Jackson down a sinister path of intrigue that could change the fate of two races. But, both the Kelsairan and the Human governments will kill him to keep their secrets. Jackson will risk everything to stop them. Will it be enough? Or will he die in the process?

This wasn’t bad, just simple. Simple in it’s writing and narration style and simple in it’s plotting. By this I mean the writing is readable, but not elaborate (and it REALLY needs another editing pass, especially to look a punctuation), the narration is a straight forward first person, past tense monologue and the plotting is….well, here’s where it all falls apart really. It’s simple and not deeply thought out.

For example, in all the universe the two characters get put in the same single prison. The male lead is already there and anticipates the female lead will be placed there when he hears she’s to be jailed. (Is there only one such prison in all the universe?) There was no mention of other women (except for a single staff nurse), so I don’t know if this was a co-ed prison. But when she arrived, she seemed able to wander at will and sleep wherever she wanted. She was never actually locked up at any point. That doesn’t seem very prison-like to me, but it sure was convenient for the plot.

Most of the book is a romance in space, which I don’t mind. I like those. But the plot is basically them running around talking to people that they already knew and somehow, miraculously uncovering, in some small amount of time, a secret that had gone undiscovered for 200 years. One of the clues they find is a copy of the original treaty, the breach of which started the war. You guys, if a war starts because someone is said to have broken a treaty, I really think someone would have thought to look at the darned thing before 200 years passed.

That war is basically just a background prop. You never feel the tension of it. The characters met ON VACATION. Yes, I know it’s the space-fairing equivalent of shore leave. But it’s hard to be concerned about a war when the main character trots off to go fishing and throughout the whole book they go wherever they want, including to their families, and no one ever stops them, there is never a battle, or a front, or any evidence of war.

While I appreciate that female lead was meant to be the more elite soldier, she spent the whole book being girly—changing clothes, putting on perfume, angsting about her virginity, and eventually marrying and having babies. She could have been a baker or a politician and been far more believable. Her character was too shallow and simple to actually carry what it was supposed to.

Lastly, there’s the humans and kelsairans, who were less different from one another than the Americans are from the Chinese. They shared the same mores and values. Their languages must not have even been that different, because the characters learned to speak alien languages in months, in one case without anyone to even teach him. He picked it up from listening to the guards talk to one another. So again, the cultures and universe are simple and not as diverse as they need to be. 

I know I sound like I’ve trashed this book. I was admittedly disappointed to find it as flat as it is. But it is entertaining in it’s own ways, has a lovely theme, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it. I’d even be willing to read another of Tran’s books.

Review of Something About You, by Jea Hawkins

I received an Audible code for a free copy of Jea Hawkin‘s Something About You from the narrator, Lori Price.

Description from Goodreads:
Dre’s life falls into a nice, predictable rhythm and that’s the way she likes it. But when an adorable, fashionable 20-something bursts into Dre’s flower shop to cancel her wedding order after her fiancé’s change of heart, Dre finds a distraught young woman on her hands. She doesn’t have the heart to shove her out of the shop, so she takes her out for sympathy and tea. The idea of befriending this woman who is clearly her opposite, however, is the last thing on Dre’s mind.

Kelsey feels awful for canceling the order, but she’s sincere when she tells Dre she wants to be friends. When she offers to make up the loss by using Dre’s services for a major project at work, Kelsey sees a chance to get to know the woman who represents the life she’s always wanted for herself. And as Kelsey gets closer to Dre, she proves to her that they aren’t so different.

Will Dre take a chance and break out of her comfortable routine to find love in an unexpected place? And will Kelsey finally embrace the life she’s always dreamed about? Or will this budding flower of romance be cut short before it blooms?

Soooo, I wasn’t all that fond of this. The fact that the narrator, Lori Prince, did a good job with the narration meant I made it through, but the story left me pretty cold. It’s basically a meet cute and some sex scenes. There’s some flirting and an attempt to give the story some depth by looking at how the pretty blond is so much more than her appearance would suggest, but since the romance is so rushed none of it really works.

My main issue was elsewhere though. I had some major problems with Kelsey’s character. The story begins when her male fiancée cancels the wedding at the last minute and she comes into Dre’s flower shop to cancel the flower order and breaks down. Dre offers her some friendly support. Kelsey is obviously presented as straight. Toward the end of the book, she’s still referred to as straight. But the reader is never given even a moment in which she considers her identity or sexuality before she aggressively pursues a lesbian relationship. None. If someone goes from identifying as straight to something else—bi-sexual, lesbian—whatever, I would expect there to be at least a moment of, “Oh, I guess I’m not as straight as I thought.” I don’t need a lot of angst, but a little consideration for sure.

This was all compounded by the fact that Kelsey repeatedly went on about how she’d always wanted to try this or do that. But the things she wanted to experience were basically Dre’s life, lesbian lives. It made her feel like she was just playing dress up with Dre’s identity, a lesbian identity. I expected it would be the sort of thing she’d later chortle about with her suburban mommy-friends, “That time when I was young and adventurous and dated a woman.” It didn’t feel serious or real.

All in all, the writing was ok and the narration was good, but the story was uncomfortable at best.

Review of Sunshine Walkingstick, #1-3, by Celia Roman

Last year, I requested and listened to GreenWood Cove, by Celia Roman. Then, the narrator Rebecca  Winder contacted me about reviewing the next two books in the series, The Deep Wood and Cemetery Hill. As I enjoyed the first one, I agreed.

Greenwood Cove:
Technically this is a review from last year, but I’ve pasted a copy here so that all three can be together. 

I quite enjoyed this, both the story and the narration of the Audible. I struggled at first with Rebecca Winder’s version of a rural accent. It, combined with Roman’s phrasing, came across as artificial at times, more of a stereotypical mountain-speak than anything realistic. But I got used to it eventually.

I generally liked this. I liked the characters, the mystery and the romance. But I struggled at times feeling like the romance overpowered everything else and, well, this really doesn’t feel like a first book. The characters have a lot of history and a certain amount of background is left unexplained. I kept feeling like there must be a prequel out there somewhere. (There isn’t as far as I know.) Some of this feeling probably would have been ameliorated by fleshing some of the plot points out a bit and bringing her whole paranormal investigation into the open earlier. As it was, I wasn’t even sure she’d had paranormal cases, outside of her lost son, before the events of the book, until it was finally mentioned toward the end. It felt like yet one more thing readers were just supposed to know already.

All the same, it was a fun read. There was a certain amount of humor and I’d be open to continuing the series.

The Deep Wood:
Again, I enjoyed my time with Ms. Sunshine Walkingstick. This isn’t a book of fast paced action, but more of slow developments and strength of character. I happen to enjoy that, but if you’re looking for shootouts and car chases, or dramatic clashes of humans versus monster, you’ll be disappointed.

What I like most is Sunshines voice. She’s…Appalachian I suppose is what I’d call it. In the first book I struggled a bit with it, but here I quite enjoyed it. Both the way Roman wrote it and the way Winder voiced it. Maybe it just took getting used to.

While I understood Sunshine had trust issues, I eventually became confused about why she was so unable to recognize Riley’s intentions toward her. He’s certainly not hiding his feelings. The whole this is starting to stress the bounds of credibility. Similarly, considering the events at the end of the book, I’d have expected to see a bit more stress on his part.

All in all, however, I very much enjoyed this and am looking forward to book three.

Cemetery Hill
I think maybe this series is just getting better, though it’s getting to the point that reviewing each individual book becomes difficult. After all, the voice, characters, world, etc is all the same. I liked it in the past two books and I still like it here. This particular mystery and monster didn’t seem quite as important as some of the past ones, maybe because it’s a middle book.

I’m still finding Sunshines resistance to her relationship with Riley a bit too much to believe. But I appreciate that the reader sees Riley’s frustration with this.

All in all, I’m still all in for Sunshine Walkingstick and look forward to future books. I think I’ll stick with the audio too. Winder is still doing a lovely job.